The news was buried in an AP story yesterday. Levi Johnston, Bristol Palin's fiancé and soon-to-be baby daddy has dropped out of high school. He informed a reporter in what sounded like a casual interview that took place on his driveway. The news is surprising only insomuch as how closely it follows the national statistics on teen sex and pregnancy. Levi now falls into his predestined spot alongside all other teens dropping out of high school to prematurely become adults because of unplanned parenthood.
Levi has been a stand-up guy, no doubt. He's made difficult choices (under the bright national spotlight). But will they pay off for him and his loved ones? While we know a lot more about the impact of teen motherhood on girls, we have some idea what early parenthood does to fathers. Teen fathers have lower education levels and suffer earning losses of 10-15 percent annually which may mean that prosperity escapes people like Levi and Bristol.
It's not hard to feel for these teens. It's also not hard to think that their predicament was the result of lack of information about how to protect themselves once they have strayed from their abstinence plan, the one Bristol's mom championed. And while there's been a lot of focus on the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education, little attention has been paid to its side effects even when it works. For example, it's a gateway to early marriage. It's not just those who traded in their virginity pledge for an unintended pregnancy, like Bristol and Levi, who are susceptible. Even the most diligent abstainers are likely to marry much earlier; heavy petting their way down the aisle. The Center for Law and Social Policy found that the number of married teenagers in the US jumped by nearly 50 percent in the 1990s, the decade during which abstinence-only programs became all the rage. The report credits the spike in early marriage to the sudden emphasis on abstinence-until-marriage.
And the irony of it all is that while Christian conservatives vehemently defend these programs, they are often upset by the results. According to the Guttmacher Institute, "Teen marriages are highly unstable." In fact, the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University reports, people who marry in their teens are two to three times more likely to divorce than people who marry in their twenties or older.
We all truly wish Bristol and Levi the best of luck. Given the statistical pool they're diving into, it is no doubt what they'll need.
For breaking news on threats to birth control access and information visit birthcontrolwatch.org
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